'Leo' gives Purple some funk


There's a track on "Machine Head ", Deep Purple's new album, that has a depth and a sense of funk to it that is unusual for the band, and highly unusual for a lot of the more popular bands in this country. It's called "Maybe I'm a Leo", and while it's not exactly typical of the album, for it's one of the high points, and it is perhaps indicative of the way the band are moving.

While I've long considered Deep Purple eminently more successful and interesting than many of the other bands they get classed with (the heavy mob, to be rather less than subtle about it), and thought their "In Rock" album to be a good, hard rock record, I did and still do have reservations. It all gets a bit too much for me at times - that relentless pursuit of excitement strains the music at the seams in places. On the new album I think this is less so than ever before - I've only heard it right through once, but from that I think there's a lot there that I'll enjoy hearing again.


Talking about the track "Maybe I'm a Leo", bassist Roger Glover saw the evolving Deep Purple this way: "American musicians seem to have a secret to the way they play that British musicians - generally speaking - don't get, a kind of laid back approach without being lazy." Like the Grateful Dead? "No, not the Grateful Dead - I don't dig them or any of the San Francisco-ish bands really. Leon Russell has the secret - the musicians he uses… Jim Keltner as a drummer is superb, not for what he does so much as for what he doesn't do. Ringo is about the only British drummer who can do it - you hear people like that and you have absolute confidence in them as musicians. "A lot of British music is so uptight - it's like a clenched fist. British music and generally speaking American music is much more relaxed, more open.

Ian Paice and myself used to share a flat, and we got into listening to the same albums, the same influences, and were both very much influences by that sort of music, and I think it shows on 'Maybe I'm a Leo'

"It's good for little Ian because he's a technician, and it's a change he's gone through in the past couple of years, he's simplified everything. I think that goes for the whole band - Ritchie used to be able to play faster than anyone, and that was all he was interested in, but he's mellowed as a person - he's not so interested in impressing people now. It's the most difficult thing in the world to make something simple and still good - but that's what were interested in."

Roger says "Machine Head" is the most enjoyable album he's ever done, with a great atmosphere and an alive sound. That certainly comes across, and it must have a lot to do with the way it was recorded. They set out to make a "studio album under live conditions", and it was in fact recorded in a hotel corridor. But thereby hangs a tale: "We're a bit fed up with studios, " said Roger, "because it's so difficult to get a good sound, especially on drums. Half the time when we used a studio we'd have the drums outside in the corridor, to get that full, rich, ringing sound. Live albums have always got much more excitement and intensity, and since that's what our music is about we decided to make a studio album under live conditions."

They hired the Stones' mobile recording truck, and set off to the casino in Montreux, which promptly burnt down during the Mother's concert the night before they were due to start. They tried recording at the concert hall in Montreux, but only got down the backing track for " Smoke On The Water " before the police stopped them for making too much noise. Then they had the bright idea of using a hotel that had closed up for the winter, and ended up in a corridor of the Grand Hotel - a place that suited their needs perfectly.

They got the sound they wanted on the album, and it also benefited from being recorded all at once, with time to prepare for it beforehand - unlike "Fireball", which was recorded over six month's in between gigs. It was recorded in three weeks after a month's lay-off due to Ian Gillan's illness and thus a cancelled American tour.


Side one begins with "Highway Star", which Roger describes as "The perfect opener. It's fast, everyone gets a solo." The lyrics concern a fast car driver: "Ian Gillan has a thing about old 1950's lyrics - it's very much the teenage rebel sort of thing rather than the beautiful person sort of thing"

Next comes "Maybe I'm a Leo" - "It's a personal thing with Ian, his sign is Leo", and then there's

"Pictures of Home" - "not something that sticks out, just a good album track", with a curious rhythmic feel, and a short bass solo. Finally there's "Never Before", which has also been slightly shortened and issued as a single. "A couple of days after we recorded it we were all going around singing it - we suddenly realized it was in our heads."


Side two opens with "Smoke On The Water" - "the title came to me in a dream", and which developed into a song about their experiences in Montreux. "Lazy" is the next track, and the music isn't. The idea is based on an Oscar Brown Junior song called "Sleepy", which wasn't either, and "it was written mainly as a vehicle for Jon and Ruche's solo's." The organ at the beginning is through a phaser box. The album ends with "Space Trucking", which is the one they're using to close their stage act at the moment. "It's a happy song, and a good one for people to get up and dance to." These 1950's lyrics come into their own again too: "It's all about space travel, but it's done in that 1950's lyrical style which was really a way of saying nothing, using a lot of phrases which really mean nothing at all. It's full of little puns like "we've got music in our solar system"- we just sat around making up stupid little phrases about space."